A new service allows users to ask Amazon's Alexa voice assistant for information about common medications, such as their side effects or possibly harmful interactions with other drugs.
It marks the most recent step in the Seattle tech giant's ongoing push to have patients manage their medications with Alexa.
With the new addition, developed by First Databank, users can ask common questions related to medication. The drug and medical-device database provider said Alexa will be able to answer questions like "Alexa, is Advil safe for pregnant women?" and "Alexa, what's the difference between Tylenol and Advil?"
Anyone with an Alexa-enabled device can use the new service. It doesn't require downloading a separate Alexa application or skill.
"We are thrilled to be working closely with Amazon on this unique consumer use of our drug knowledge," Bob Katter, First Databank's president, said in a statement. "Ultimately, we believe that more informed consumers will lead to improved medication adherence, the reduction of adverse drug events and better patient outcomes."
Adverse drug events in outpatient settings account for an estimated 1 million emergency department visits and roughly 125,000 hospital admissions, according to HHS' Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Alexa is a cornerstone of Amazon's move into the healthcare sector. This past spring, Amazon launched an invite-only program for healthcare companies—including hospitals and health insurers—to develop skills that transmit protected health information through the voice assistant while complying with HIPAA.
One of those skills, unveiled late last year, also tackles medication management.
That Alexa skill—a collaboration between Amazon and medication-management company Omnicell—was personalized to individual users. Customers of pharmacies that Amazon partners with will be able to use the Alexa feature to review their current prescriptions, set reminders to take medications and request prescription refills.
Amazon at the time said its goal was to simplify prescription management for users who are taking multiple medications a day, as well as to help seniors who are opting to age at home independently manage their care.